Structure dataset 60: Lingala

This language is described more fully in survey chapter 60.

Lingala has its origins in a process of pidginization that took place in the early 1880s involving the Central African language Bobangi as main lexifier. In 1884, the resulting pidgin was taken to the colonial state post Bangala Station (today, Mankanza), where it underwent expanding influence from the local languages and where it received its first glossonym, “Bangala”. From the late 1880s onwards, the language spread from the station in north-eastward direction, as far as the Sudanese border, and in southward direction, as far as Léopoldville (now, Kinshasa). In each place, influence from local languages further expanded the language along independent trajectories. On top of this, in the first decade of the 20th century, missionaries working in the Bangala Station area (then renamed Nouvelle-Anvers) embarked on a vast project of prescriptive corpus planning, also suggesting the new glossonym “Lingala”. The engineered variant gained ground in the north-western region of the Belgian Congo, where the language as spoken today still very much resembles the way the missionaries designed it to be. But in Léopoldville its functions were restricted to church and school contexts, while for routine communication Bangala remained in use, following its own path of linguistic development (particularly marked by influence from Kikongo) and, in the first half of the 20th century, spilling over to Brazzaville. The new language name was more successful, soon receiving acceptance in Léopoldville, too. But in the north-eastern parts of the Congo, the old glossonym Bangala survived and, in fact, continues to be used until today. Since the late colonial and post-colonial eras, the variety spoken in the politically important and culturally vanguard capital Léopoldville -Kinshasa has been the most influential and popular one, encroaching on the varieties spoken in the north-west of the DR Congo, in the north-east, and in Brazzaville. This is the variant covered in the present Atlas.

Glossed text (63.0KB, application/pdf)
No. Feature Value Details Source
No. Feature Value Details Source


Pulmonic Consonants
Place → Labial Coronal Dorsal Laryngeal
↓ Manner Bilabial Labio­dental Linguo­labial Dental Alveolar Palato-
Retroflex Alveolo-
Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal
/ Epiglottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Stop p b mb t d ⁿd k g ŋg
Sibilant affricate
Non-sibilant affricate
Sibilant fricative s z ⁿz ʃ ʒ
Non-sibilant fricative f v
Approximant l j
Flap or tap
Trill r
Lateral affricate
Lateral fricative
Lateral approximant
Lateral flap


Front Near-front Central Near-back Back Close Near-close Close-mid Mid Open-mid Near-open Open ihigh front unrounded vowel uhigh back rounded vowel ehigher mid front unrounded vowel ohigher mid back rounded vowel alow central unrounded vowel

Special segments

Other segments
 w  voiced labial-velar glide


       Exists (as a major allophone)
       Exists only as a minor allophone
       Exists only in loanwords
No. Feature Value Details Source